The action of Ozark returns to its titular setting after the Chicago-set flashback of chapter eight and continues the death spiral of several supporting characters. It’s ultimately a pretty tragic episode, capturing the murder of two men by their niece when Ruth chooses her potential future with Marty over a violent past with Russ and Boyd. Since the Byrdes landed in the Ozarks, it’s felt like death has been inevitable for many characters, and the Grim Reaper comes for Russ and Boyd this week when Russ sees all the potential plans crumble into dust. Russ is undeniably a bad dude — a violent man trying to kill Marty — but there’s also something heartbreaking about how he was used by an FBI agent who saw him as a means to an end. Both things can be true.
The episode opens with a sort of Chekhov’s gun — just in case viewers weren’t already nervous — when Tuck buys a weapon for Jonah, which he later buries in the woods under some dead leaves. Back at the Byrde house, Wendy is pouring coffee for Marty and offering to help with the day after sleeping on the couch — seemingly proffering an olive branch after the vicious fight that ended the seventh episode. Marty doesn’t really take it, and he leaves. Buddy gets the best line when he comes upstairs and says, “If my ex-wife and I had it out like that, we might still be together. You two are up to your ballsacks in drama.”
Marty arrives at the smoldering church with Sheriff Nix, who tells him that it’s an active crime scene, meaning Marty won’t be able to clear it and make the Snell situation disappear. Doesn’t Nix work for the Snells? Why would he delay? Does he not know about the lake scheme yet? Everyone needs the church ashes to go away right now. Especially after Marty learns that Mason burned it down himself after learning what Byrde does for a living.
Meanwhile, Agent Evans comes to talk to Wendy Byrde, wondering why there’s a Mexican enforcer blatantly following her, turning up the heat. He offers one more life raft for Witness Protection, but she doesn’t even consider taking it. She pushes back, knowing the feds don’t have enough to take her in or sell her out to the Mexicans. Evans is grasping at straws. It’s really pathetic how disorganized both Petty and Evans are in season one.
The tragedy of Russ Langmore starts in a motel-room scene between him and Petty in which they talk about where they could go to create a life together as a couple. Imagine where Russ is here — finally able to come out of the closet after a life of violently responding to his sexuality. And then Petty drops the hammer: “I’m an FBI agent, and I have you on conspiracy to commit murder.” There’s an impressively long pause as Russ processes how everything he dreamed has been just another lie. Petty wants Russ to get something on Ruth so they can turn her to get Marty. Russ lashes out, accusing Petty of turning him gay, and they physically fight. Petty reveals that he knew Russ was arrested for picking up a male prostitute, meaning that the FBI used Langmore’s closeted status against him.
While Petty manipulates Russ, the Byrdes continue to use poor Sam Dermody. He blames himself for his mother being cleaned off a garbage truck. “I’m never going to be able to take out the garbage without thinking about her” is one of the show’s best darkly funny lines. He will need some of the money back for her funeral, but Marty can’t let that happen. He agrees to get a credit increase to pay for it himself, but Wendy discovers that Eugenia Dermody had some extreme conditions around her death. She wanted to be embalmed, posed, celebrated, and even turned into a diamond. It’s all to the tune of around $50,000, which Wendy doesn’t have. The master politician sees an opening, offering an “alternate solution,” and the whole bizarre Dermody saga ends with the Byrdes owning a funeral home.
Back at the Blue Cat, Marty has to win Rachel back after the blow-up when she discovered his operation. He swears he only needs until like the end of the week. He leaves a message on Rachel’s voicemail that threatens her life under the supposition that she could use it if they all got caught for money laundering. It’s a good scene because it’s not fully clear if Marty comprehends that faking a threat is still, well, threatening.
Russ goes into action, pushing hard on Ruth to get a further confession on tape. He demands to know if she will try to kill Marty again. It doesn’t work. Petty uses Russ’s affection for him as a weapon, handing him off to Evans as a handler (Petty is an awful person). Russ goes back in and wants to talk to just Ruth, sending the boys off to Steak ’n Shake (yum). Russ tries to force a confession again, and it fails miserably. Ruth is too smart for that, and Russ knows he’s failed. He gets more desperate, telling Boyd that something has to happen tomorrow. He drops all the info on him, telling him he’s been turned and they need to move. He orders Wyatt and Three to start packing what’s in the trailer, and Wyatt gets upset when he learns that Ruth isn’t coming with them. Not understanding Wyatt’s connection with his cousin will be his biggest mistake, because Ruth senses something is very wrong when they hug later in the episode. She knows she has to make a decision.
As she’s processing everything on the Langmore compound, a truck pulls up at the Byrdes’ place with money for them to wash. It’s $50 million! That’s way more than they have the operations to support right now, and so they need to wrap the cash and put it somewhere safe. They can’t put it in the walls because of rot. They get the kids in on the family business directly, having them wrap the money.
Russ and Boyd come to the Blue Cat on a boat to do something drastic to Marty while the kids wrap money. The murderous Langmores get to the dock, and Russ grabs the ladder and … bzzzzt. Boyd calls his name and then touches him too, getting zapped himself. The lights flicker at the Blue Cat, and Marty, Rachel, and the enforcer see the smoking bodies on the boat. “Why do they have guns and a grab bag, Marty?” Rachel sees that someone messed with the wiring and did this on purpose. Marty knows who it was. But he first saves Rachel’s life from the bad guy who wants to remove a potential loose end.
Marty comes into the office to find a solitary Ruth. “Did it work?” She protected Marty. “I couldn’t have them kill you,” she says. And Ruth cries as they hug each other.
Petty is at the bar when he gets the call. It was an “accident.” Evans comes right out and accuses Petty of being to blame, making Ruth do it. She was onto them. Petty got Russ killed. He hangs up, slams a beer bottle into a guy’s head, and shoots the TV over the bar. He probably won’t be going back there.
• There’s a key transition scene wherein Wendy and Marty ask the question that’s really key to a lot of the action on this show — would these two still be together if they weren’t running from a drug cartel? Think about it. What if the delivery of the tape from the P.I. and Del’s discovery of Bruce’s scheme had been even a week apart? Might Wendy and Marty have already been separated? This is a show that hinges on quick decisions and twists of fate, and the timing of Bruce’s death has shaped all of it.
• RIP Russ Langmore. He’s a complicated character drawn very well by Marc Menchaca, who took a part riddled with cliché traps and avoided them.
• If you’re wondering if Eugenia Dermody’s request for “extreme embalming” is a real thing, so was I. You can read more about it here, but be warned that it’s pretty creepy.